A line of Ferrum soldiers flanked one side of the alien shuttle craft’s door, a line of Arma on the other. They stood at ceremony attention but there weapons were armed. Ferrum Director Emil Stanic, the station commander, and the Scientia Research Head, Mattias Eriksson, stood at the head of the lines. Everyone waiting for the shuttle door to open. Stanic could hear Eriksson’s heart pounding and thought what bad form it would be to have him drop dead of a heart attack in front of their alien guests. But then he realized that his heart was galloping too.
The last several days were spent broadcasting back to the alien craft information we hoped would translate our wish to meet on peaceful terms. Now there was an alien shuttle docked in the hangar of the Planck Space Station. Half the station’s crew was present, every one of them wearing the same look of excited terror.
Inside that ship was the absolute unknown. This moment had lived in our imaginations for centuries but the reality of it defied all reference. The combined intellectual and scientific speculation of human history. All the fantasy of science fiction that embodied our broadest hopes and our darkest fears. None of it held any weight in the reality of this moment. Every person standing there then was struck by the same two realizations; that we were scientifically, psychologically, and emotionally unprepared for what was in that ship; and, despite that we’d known the fact of it for a long time, when that door opened we were no longer alone, no longer the center of the universe. Stanic thought that it was perhaps the first time in history humankind had been truly humbled. Then the shuttle doors open.
A being steps out. Thin, well over two and a half meters tall with grey blue skin and dressed in a long red robe adorned in intricate patterns. It had a long neck and a smallish head crowned with horn-like projections that swept along the cranium merging in the back. It’s face is almost featureless and dominated by huge eyes with golden ringed irises. It had no identifiable nose and a very small mouth.
The alien paused at the opening studying the hangar full of humans before stepping out and gesturing for the other two in the ship to follow. For a several minutes they all, aliens and humans, stood and looked each other over. Stanic suddenly realized that they probably had no clue who to approach and stepped forward. The lead alien acknowledges this and stepped towards Stanic as well. Stanic felt an odd wave of calm wash over him as the alien approached. He glanced back at Ericsson and gestured for him to keep pace. Ericsson moved with a conscious effort to keep his legs under him, eyes fixed on the aliens. The alien bowed and presented its open palms. Stanic instinctively responded by mimicking the gesture. Then the creature put its hand on its shoulder and spoke, it’s voice was calm and even. “I am Kora of the Cysti. Are you able to understand me?”
Stanic reached behind his ear and touched his Wernicke device attached there. A few days before their visit the aliens had transmitted detailed data on some technology. The Scientia brains determined it was some sort of language processor and began programming ANTS production code to manufacture device. It acted to intercept speech and translate it before passing it on to the brain. It seemed to work, although with a slight delay.
Ericsson excitedly responds to Kora’s inquiry, “Yes, we can understand you. Incredible. Can you understand us?” Kora nods in acknowledgment. Stanic takes another step forward and makes introductions, “I am Director Stanic, I command this outpost, and this is Doctor Eriksson he leads our scientific endeavours here. We are humans” Kora bows with open hands again and replies, “We are joyous to meet you.”
Over the next few days we exchange general information with the Cysti. Biological, cultural, and scientific basics needed to form a foundation of understanding. The Cysti already knew a great deal about our technology given they had been studying us since encountering our first probes into Vigilem.
From them we learned Vigilem was home to several native races as well as many that claimed territory in the region. They explained that while we were free to explore and establish colonies and outposts, we needed to be aware that we do not have the freedoms we had in Draco-Tao. Vigilem has a complex and shifting interspecies political system, of which the Cysti acted as arbitrators. A political system we were not required to participate in, however one of which had rules we must abide if we were going to be in Vigilem.
Whether or not humanity would join some intergalactic federation was a matter beyond Stanic’s authority. A matter the be discussed in further meetings between the Cysti, Imperium Leadership, and Brotherhood Command in the coming weeks.
One thing was clear. We definitely weren’t the center of the Universe anymore.